Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Power shift was long overdue

A couple of avid wrestling fans were calling last weekend’s District 1-AAA Team Duals Tournament a long-overdue power shift because, finally, Upper Perkiomen wasn’t walking off with the title again.
Well, it was more of a power move than a shift.
Council Rock South, Council Rock North and Quakertown were seeded first through third, respectively, and finally brought some sanity to one of the most unpredictable dual-meet seasons in recent memory by finishing in that same order in Class AAA. The Suburban One representatives were, without question, the class of the bracket.
But, with the possible exception of Quakertown – arguably the “Team of the Year” if gauging where head coach Kurt Handel’s team was back in December and where it is now – Newtown’s neighboring rivals haven’t exactly been wrestling in anonymity since the school district split up and chose sides.
Last year, Upper Perkiomen, Council Rock South and Pennsbury finished one, two, three and went off to the state duals. Two years ago, it was Upper Perkiomen, Council Rock South and Council Rock North lining up for the awards. And in 2005 – the first time the district duals went to wrestlebacks and advanced three teams to states since the inaugural run back in 1994 – it was Upper Perkiomen, Council Rock North and Boyertown pinning down the top three spots.
Add that up and, in the four years of wrestlebacks and qualifying three teams for the PIAA Duals, you’ll get Upper Perkiomen, Council Rock South and Council Rock South moving on three times each, and Boyertown, Quakertown and Pennsbury advancing one time each.
The District 1-Class AAA lineup boasts 58 wrestling programs, but only six have qualified for – or accounted for – the 12 state-tournament berths.
Those kind of numbers don’t justify a power shift by any stretch of the imagination. They kind of make one question if there’s even been a power move of any significance.
There hasn’t been, at least not yet.
And what happens when the PIAA-Class AAA State Duals get under way tonight and continue over the weekend out in Hershey, will reveal just how much if any “move” has been made by the district. You see, there are one (actually two) measuring sticks … and they’re how its teams fare against the best from Districts 7 and 11.
Since 2005, District 1 is 3-3 against District 7, with Upper Perkiomen owning all three of those wins (two over Kiski Area in 2005 and one over Penn-Trafford last year). During that same period, District 1 is 2-5 against District 11, with Upper Perkiomen owning both wins (over Nazareth and Easton during its run to the state title two years ago).
And if you go back to 1999, the first year of state duals and the first of six years in which only the district champion advanced, District 1’s overall record against District’s 7 and 11 in the Class AAA bracket is 5-12.
Tonight, Quakertown gets baptized in the state tournament with a meeting against District 11 runner-up Nazareth, who decisioned Easton in Saturday’s semifinals and denied the Red Rovers a chance to appear in its eighth consecutive state final (that’s right, eighth straight – they were second the last three years and the state champions the previous four seasons).
On Friday morning, Council Rock North – by virtue of a forfeit over District 12’s George Washington – gets to tangle with unbeaten District 6 champion Central Mountain. All the Wildcats have done this season is finish second at both the brutal Top Hat and King of the Mountain tournaments, third at the Manheim Christmas Invitational, and destroy – among others – District 9 king St. Mary’s (51-18). If Council Rock North survives that one, they get District 7 champion Connellsville, which has been a proverbial pain in this district’s side for as long as one can remember.
Then Friday afternoon, Council Rock South will be waiting for, in all likelihood, either District 7 runner-up Penn-Trafford or District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep. The Penn-Trafford Warriors have lost only twice, to District 6-AA champion Mount Union – which showed its knockout punch during a visit to Perkiomen Valley earlier this winter – and, of course, to Connellsville three days ago. If the Golden Hawks survive their opener, make no mistake about it, they’ll go up against District 11 champion Northampton, the same Northampton they lost to, 58-11, back on Dec. 8.
So, yes, there has been a slight power move in District 1 … but as far as a power shift, in the district or throughout Pennsylvania, is still to be determined.
Last Saturday was the first time since 1998 that the Pioneer Athletic Conference wasn’t represented in the semifinals and only the second time in that span of time the league didn’t have a team in the final. And Octorara’s upset of Pottstown ended the PAC-10’s three-year dominance of the Class AA bracket.
The PAC-10 did have some representation in the championships, though. Council Rock South’s coaching staff includes assistant Deric Lynch, a Pottsgrove graduate; and Octorara’s head coach is Mark Durante, a Spring-Ford graduate.
Upper Perkiomen was eliminated in the consolation semifinals by Quakertown, the alma mater of Indians head coach Tom Hontz and assistant Jamie Ritter. The two combined for six section, two district and two regional titles as well as a couple of state medals during their careers with the Panthers.
Another Quakertown graduate, Chuck Hangey – a 1968 sectional champion whose son was a state champion in 1988 – was one of the mat officials in Pottstown’s Class AA bouts Saturday.

Wrestler of the Week honors go to Upper Perkiomen freshman Cody Ambrose, who was close to losing by a technical fall in one match and on his way to a loss by at least a major decision in another before coming up with a pin in both to help the Indians to a pair of wins.
Coach of the Week honors go to Upper Perkiomen’s Tom Hontz, who guided his No. 13 seeded Indians to a split of four matches in the District 1-Class AAA Duals to finish among the top six.

Boyertown and Spring-Ford will attempt to put the finishing touches on their PAC-10 seasons and claim a share of the title Wednesday night. The Bears (6-1) visit St. Pius X (0-6), while the Rams (6-1) visit Pottstown (1-5)
Perhaps the most entertaining match will be between Perkiomen Valley and Upper Perkiomen up in Red Hill. Both teams are 5-2, and the upstart Vikings haven’t defeated the Indians in over 10 years.
Pius entertains Pottstown next Tuesday night to close out the 22nd year of wrestling in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
Spring-Ford (22) and Boyertown (5) – along with former member Great Valley (12) – are the only teams with winning seasons in each of its years in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
Pottstown needs wins over Spring-Ford and St. Pius to reach 100 league wins. The Trojans trail only the Rams (166) and Upper Perkiomen (125) in Pioneer Athletic Conference wins and are one in front of Perkiomen Valley (97). Great Valley and Owen J. Roberts are tied for the fifth spot with 92 each.

Unquestionably of the most improved teams from since the beginning of the year has been Neshaminy. Back in its season opener, the Redskins lost all but four contested bouts in a 37-19 loss to Spring-Ford. Last Wednesday night, they defeated District 1-Class AAA Team Duals quarterfinalist Pennridge, 30-23, for a share of the Suburban One National Conference championship – the program’s first title in 12 years. … Quakertown incidentally, pounced all over Plymouth-Whitemarsh last week to clinch the Suburban One American Conference title, its first since head coach Kurt Handel’s senior year with the Panthers back in 1990.

While it may be a relatively quiet week for some, it won’t be for long because the individual postseason grind gets under way next week with District 1’s six AAA sectionals on Friday, Feb. 16. That’s the same starting date for Daniel Boone’s in its District 3-AAA sectional. … The Hill School, enjoying one of its best seasons in quite some time, and Perkiomen School will be at the Pennsylvania Prep School State Invitational Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16, at The Haverford School.

Spring-Ford’s Ryan Kemmerer (121), Methacton’s Jonathan Hammond (119), Pottstown’s Seth Ecker (119), Daniel Boone’s Tyler Swartz (108) and Owen J. Roberts’ Connor McCormick (102) continue to climb the area’s career win chart.
Kemmerer is currently tied with Methacton graduate and three-time state medalist Brad Clark for 34th on the all-time list. Hammond is within three wins of tying Warrior standout John Pagnotta for fourth place on the Warriors’ career chart. Ecker, who shares the 41st spot with Hammond and former Boyertown standouts Zac Brower and Fred Rodgers, still has a mathematical chance to better Pottstown’s career mark of 132 held by three-time state medalist Joey Allen (132).
OJR’s Will Bentley (93), Daniel Boone’s Josh Sheriff (90) and Spring-Ford’s Alan Gauger (89) also have a chance to reach the 100-win milestone in the postseason. Sheriff could join Swartz as the only 100-bout winners in Daniel Boone history.


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